In a dank room within a long forgotten cistern beneath the ground, three men stand around a long, metal table.
"Thisss was a dissapointment. The Massster won't be happy." One of the men, Attor, says. A forked metal tongue flicks in and out of his mouth as he speaks.
A body lies before the men. Face down and strewn across the table, arms dangle, limp in their sockets, a steady stream of blood flowing down them. Shards of spinal bone pierce through the skin of the back, the flesh taut with the excess cut away, saved for later use.
The two other men are silent as they stare, awaiting their orders. The man who spoke moves around the table, closer to the head of the dead man. The bones that litter the floor crunch beneath his feet, and body parts, better left unnamed, squelch, bursting liquid across the blood-slicked bricks.
"He iss no longer of any ussse to usss. We will ssscrap him for partss." Attor places his hands on either side of the dead man's head, twisting. The sickening crack of his neck echoes around the room. Blank eyes stare up as Attor pries open the jaw, inspecting the teeth inside.
"Hmmm. At leasst, he will make for good parts for the othersss. It's ssso hard to find decent teeth thesse daysss."
From the pocket of his apron Attor took out his hammer, and without a word smashes it into the man's ribs. Once he could see a hole in the chest cavity, he put down the hammer and went for his spreading tool. The spreading tool was a rod, with two prongs on the end that when he turned the mechanism, would widen. Attor slips those prongs into the hole in the ribs, beginning to turn. The prongs separate, forcing apart flesh and bone, to reveal the chest cavity beneath and the ruby jewel hidden inside.
"Get me a jar." Attor orders.
Leaning over, so he was almost eye level with the glistening heart, Attor runs a finger across it, caressing it softly. The heart was vital to his work, bringing his creations to life. Ever so carefully, he slips his hands around it, lifting it from the body. Snipping the arteries and the veins that connected his priceless jewel to the weakling that was its host, he frees it, placing the heart into the glass jar beside him.
"Don't worry," he whispers, as he fills the jar with his preserving solution, "I have sssomething ssspecial in ssstore for you."
He screws on the lid of the jar. Giving a curt nod to the others to finish the harvesting process, Attor walks over to the only door in the room. Behind the door was a small narrow hallway, partially caved in, with floor to ceiling shelves lining the walls. Attor used it as his storeroom, a place to hold the harvested pieces from the bodies. The harsh light from the glowstone he kept inside fills the room behind him, as he opens the door. Attor clenches his jaw, nose flaring as he stares at the shelves before him. Overflowing. He shakes his head. There is more than enough harvested parts to create his Alchemirion ten times over, but the subjects he collected were weak, continually dying before he could start the rebirthing process. So far, only the creation of three Alchemira had been possible, and Attor was desperate to try again. He had many new ideas to implement.
He places the jar on the shelf with the other hearts. Reentering the room, he frowns at the pulpy mess smeared across his table. These men, no matter how hard he'd tried to train them, did not have the same finesse as he when it came to harvesting. They wasted so much of the body, but Attor didn't have time to do it all himself.
When they were finished, and the unusable remains of the body disposed of, Attor motions for the next subject to be brought in.
"There are no more Attor," One of them says.
Hissing with displeasure, Attor turns away. His eyes scan the diagrams he'd pasted to the wall, as his mind calculates. They needed more bodies. Yes, he knew he had a room full of subjects chained to the wall in the cistern over, but only one was suitable for rebirthing. Subject Alpha. She wouldn't do. Alpha was the perfect candidate, and he wouldn't use her until he had perfected the process.
A growl tore from Attor's throat as he swipes his hands across the desk in front of him, sending his papers flying. He couldn't perfect the process without practice, and he couldn't practice because everyone kept dying! The Master had promised him access to everything he needed once he arrived in her domain, but the people here were useless. They had only taken one so far. A measly child. The only thing going for her was that she was easily disposable.
Sighing, Attor straightens, slicking back the greasy hair that had fallen in his eyes. Easily disposable. May as well use her for a new test then.
"Get the child. Put her in the arena with sssubject Alpha. Sssee if we can't finally break her."
When the footsteps of the men leaving had faded out, Attor bends down and begins collecting his papers. He'd need his files on Subject Alpha to take with him down to the arena. Alpha was his prize possession. She was proving to be better than anything he could have imagined, far superior to the other subjects. Attor had happened upon her, quite by chance, grabbing her as she left an airship in the night. She was one of the first he had collected after he'd made the deal with his Master those many months ago.
Screams echo throughout the tunnels, a signal to Attor to make his way to the arena. He took his Alpha file and his journal. As he exits the rebirthing chamber and walks through the maze-like structure of the cistern tunnels, Attor opens his journal marking the date. Years of research had brought him to this point, and he planned to document every moment of his success. Once his Alchemira are released upon the world, and people finally understand and appreciate his genius, he would throw his research into the faces of those who had scorned him, scorned his ideas, his experiments and had him removed from the medical society. It would be a lesson to them to never underestimate him again.
Looking up from his journal, Attor turns left at the crossroads. That was close. If he'd turned to the right, it would take him to the cistern which held the test subjects. He hated going there. The smell was unbelievable. As he rounds the corner, he enters the arena. This was the third and by far the largest cistern, which is why the enclosed domed structure of the arena had been built inside. It had circular walls for the base, and the domed roof was made from interlocking metal bars so that spectators could see into it. It also meant that once the subjects were inside, there was no escape.
Attor takes his place on one of the tiered seats that encircled the arena. As this wasn't a scheduled fight, there was no one else to watch it this time. The Master had a select few who knew about her plans, and those interested were allowed to come down and view the fight and place bets on the outcome. Attor didn't understand the fascination. For science, yes, but for sport? No.
Raising a hand, Attor signals for the guards to release the subjects in the arena. He waits, pencil poised as they exit, locking the doors behind them. A smile twitches on his face, as he watches Alpha rush to the child. After a moments hesitation, Subject Alpha takes the child's head in her hands and twists. Attor smiles, as he scratches his pencil across his page. Just as he'd hoped.
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Beasts of Steel and Bone *WATTYS WINNER*Science Fiction
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